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A chance for a transformative experience

As one year morphs into another, one may encounter year-in-review lists or things to anticipate in the New Year. I often find myself flipping the calendar from December to January and reflecting on the past year, hopefully grateful for the growth that I have experienced in those past twelve months.
Looking further back, I can point to many formative experiences that have transformed my perspective, my worldview, my thoughts and beliefs. As an adult, playing a role in young people experiencing those moments has been both treasured and grace-filled.
Teaching sophomores in high school may be considered a penitential activity for many, but for me it was enriching, challenging and illuminating all at the same time. In one class period, they can not only ask deep and insightful questions but also make head-scratching or chuckle-inducing comments.
In one class, we were discussing the Eucharist and I was attempting to teach them about the Church’s belief in transubstantiation. I could see the light bulbs in their little teenage minds going off when I wrote the word on the whiteboard and pointed out that we see the prefix “trans-“ very often, such as words like transformation or translucent, and that it means “across” or “beyond” or “changing thoroughly.”
In our faith life and in our relationship with the person of Jesus Christ, transformation should be at its heart. Baptism transforms us from nonbelievers to sons and daughters of God. In the Eucharist, ordinary bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. In fact, we find ourselves changed by all of the sacraments that we receive; grace is truly an amazing gift, and our lives are marked by grace changing us and working through us.
We know the story of the wedding at Cana — the couple has run out of wine, Mary tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to do, and His first miracle of changing water into wine begins His public ministry. As we listen to or read that story, we can reflect and imagine ourselves there in Cana.
We know that “Jesus did this at the beginning of His signs at Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory and His disciples began to believe in Him.” (John 2:11) Unfortunately, we don’t know what happens next to the couple, to the headwaiter, to the servers, or to the guests at that wedding. How were their lives changed from that event, if at all?
Young people have many opportunities to encounter and to experience the transformational love of God. It can begin at home, the domestic Church, where family life is sacred and holy. It can be at our parishes or Catholic schools, where the community of faith encourages them to be saints. It can be on retreats or youth conferences, such as the Archdiocesan Catholic Youth Conference (ACYC).
ACYC can be a powerful weekend for the young people in the lower half of Alabama. It can transform their hearts, educate their minds and enflame their spirits to choose Christ above all else. Vocations are fostered, authentic friendships are strengthened and teens in our diocese know that God and the Church love them — it’s a pretty full weekend!
This year’s conference for high school youth will be Feb. 22-24 at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach with the theme, “This Changes Everything.” We’ll be encouraging our young people to have that transformative experience of grace, and to live a life that shows they have been changed. What if the headwaiter or the servers were so changed by the miracle in Cana, but no one around them knew they were marked by that event? We want our young people to echo the words from the prophet Isaiah, “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep still.” (IS 62:1)
ACYC 2019 will feature Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi, The Vigil Project, Dr. Ansel Augustine and Fr. Andrew Jones. More information can be found through parish youth ministries or www.ArchMobYouth.org/ACYC
Let us pray for the young Church, that they not only experience a transformation in Christ, but that they live in such a way that their transformation is visible to their communities.
— Adam Ganucheau is the Director of the Office of Youth Ministry for the Archdiocese of Mobile. He may be emailed at aganucheau@mobarch.org
Visit our website, www.ArchMobYouth.org Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/ArchMobYouth and follow us on Twitter and Instagram – @ArchMobYouth

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